Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Mountains and Valleys

Leslie Basham: Today on Revive Our Hearts, you’ll think about the transfiguration of Jesus in a new way. First, we’re excited to tell you about a major series coming up starting February 18. Nancy will help you focus on Jesus in the series, "The Incomparable Christ. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Jesus not only delighted in His Father and enjoyed His Father's company, but He was also in eternity past delighting in us. 

If we could put Jesus in our little boxes that we can figure out, then He wouldn't be amazing anymore. He wouldn't be incomparable. We shouldn't be able to figure Him out completely. We have to take a lot of this by faith, but as we do, we marvel and we worship. He really is the incomparable Christ.

Leslie: Appreciate Jesus in a whole new way in the weeks leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Nancy: We cannot fathom the depth of the horrors that Christ faced in the olive press in Gethsemane as He contemplated the cross.

There were many, many laws that were broken during Jesus' trial. And yet, isn't it amazing that Jesus still chose to die for lawbreakers.

Leslie: To get The Incomparable Christ book and journal and follow along with the series, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy: If we were to ask what is Jesus' chief characteristic, the root and essence of all His character as our redeemer, there can be only one answer. What would you say? You see, there is nothing you and I will ever experience in the physical or the emotional or the spiritual, the relational, the psychological realm—nothing that we will experience in the realm of suffering that in some way Jesus did not partake in on our behalf. 

Leslie: And make sure to join us for "The Incomparable Christ," starting February 18.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, February 2, 2015.

Why is the transfiguration of Jesus so important? We’ll hear Nancy explore that today. We are going to listen to a message she delivered at a women’s conference sponsored by The Gospel Coalition. Let's listen to Nancy's message called "On Another Mountain."

Nancy: Well, the account that we are looking at tonight, and let me invite you to turn in your Bible to the gospel of Matthew chapter 17. This account may be the most important event between Jesus' birth and His death and resurrection. In fact, the more I linger in this passage, the greater challenge I am finding to deal with it in one message.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 

And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 

He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist (vv. 1–13).

You know probably that the account of the Transfiguration is recorded in all three synoptic gospels. And as is generally the case in Scripture, and this is particularly true here, that it takes on greater meaning in the context of what precedes this passage and what immediately follows on its heels. This same progression is seen in all three of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

So let me ask you for just a moment before we look at chapter 17, to turn back a chapter to the sixteenth chapter of Matthew beginning in verse 13. Now, I just want to give you a quick overview of what precedes this account. Jesus is wanting His disciples to understand who He is—His identity. And so He says to them in verse 13, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

And as is true today, there was a great deal of confusion—a variety of opinions about that particular question. But the general consensus as reported by the disciples was that a great prophet had risen from the dead. Jesus was a great man on the level with those great Old Testament prophets or perhaps John the Baptist.

Verse 14, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” So you see that people thought highly of Jesus. But they also considered Him one among many. So in verse 15, Jesus says to the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” And this is when Peter makes that bold profession that Jesus is the One and Only—the Messiah—the Anointed One. He says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter gets it, at least at that moment—the glorious truth of the deity of Christ. And the reason Peter got it is the same reason any of us get any spiritual truth and that is because it had been revealed to him by the Father.

And then in verses 18–19, we have the first mention in the gospel of Matthew of the church. And Jesus promises to build and to preserve His church. He speaks of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And then He says in verse 20 about all of this, “Keep this to yourselves. Don’t tell anyone about it. Don’t evangelize. Don’t tell anyone who I am.” You see, the Jewish expectations of the Messiah did not have room for the Messiah to suffer and die. And Jesus didn’t want anyone or anything to deter Him from that objective.

Then we come to verse 21 which is a pivotal point in the gospels. From this point on, the course of Jesus ministry now turns explicitly, directly, intentionally toward what? The cross. Jesus explains to his disciples in this paragraph what lies ahead. And what you see here emerging and it continues over these next chapters is this theme of humiliation and exaltation—first suffering and then glory.

First humiliation: Here we have beginning in verse 21, Matthew’s first prediction of Jesus death. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed . . .” Humiliation, suffering and then on the third day, be raised—exaltation.

Now Peter, speaking for the rest of the disciples, does not understand this. It makes no sense at all to him because like other Jews, his theology doesn’t include a Messiah who suffers and dies. So you know how in verse 22, he rebukes Jesus and he says, “No way! This will never happen to you.” He clearly had not heard the part about the resurrection, but he got the part about the suffering and the dying. “This will never happen to you.” Peter is suffering-adverse. He wants exaltation without humiliation. He wants glory without suffering. He wants a crown without a cross. And doesn’t Peter speak for us? Don’t we want the same thing?

Well in verse 23, Jesus rebukes Peter and He tells him, “You are thinking man’s way not God’s way.” For you see, God’s kingdom not only advances in spite of suffering and humiliation, but actually as we see the theology of suffering unfolding through the Scripture, we realize that suffering and humiliation, as we just heard, weakness, those things are a means by which His kingdom and His glory are advanced. In the mystery of God, death brings life.

Now in verses 24 and following, and again all this leading up to the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus reminds his disciples or explains to them, that not only must He suffer, something that was already incomprehensible to them, but also they must suffer. Verse 24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” He’s talking here about the cost of discipleship. And He says, “If you want to share in my kingdom, if you want to share in my exaltation, you have to take the pathway of the cross. There’s no way around it.”

But He also reminds them that the pathway doesn’t end at the cross. You see, if humiliation—suffering—were all we had to expect or anticipate, well our lives would be dismal. We would live in perpetual discouragement. But in verse 27, Jesus reminds them or spells out this hope that humiliation will be followed by exaltation. Suffering would be followed by glory. It’s true of Christ. It’s true of His disciples.

Verse 27: “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay [or reward, some of your translations say] each person according to what he has done.” He will reward His faithful followers. He will punish His enemies. So you see here the theme. First humiliation then exaltation. First suffering and then glory.

Now verse 28 links verse 27 with the very next verse, the first verse of chapter 17. We have an unfortunate chapter break here, where Jesus says in verse 28, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

This promise, a wonderful promise, is fulfilled in the next paragraph as a few select disciples are going to be given a preview of Christ coming in His power and glory, which He had just told them that He was going to do. They are going to get a preview of that moment—how He would come and set up His kingdom. For you see, the transfiguration is an unveiling of the glory of the King. Since the point of His birth, Jesus had been clothed, until this moment, in the humble garb of humanity. But now these few disciples are going to get a glimpse of the royal robes of His deity. They're going to see His glory.

So, we get to chapter 17, verse 1, all that by way of context and introduction. “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” Luke’s gospel, by the way, tells us that Jesus went up this mountain to pray. And how important it is to remember that that’s where the transfiguration takes place. And a reminder here that the most intimate experiences of God’s glory rarely take place in a crowd. You have to be willing to pull away—which is exactly what we‘ve been wanting to do this weekend—to pull away to this high mountain by ourselves to be with the Lord Jesus and to see His glory.

Now these same three disciples were soon to witness Jesus' humiliation—his agony in Gethsemane. I think that the experience of seeing His glory on the Mount must have prepared them to see His agony in Gethsemane. And both experiences for sure helped prepare them for their future ministry, for the birthing and nurturing of the church for the advancing of Christ’s kingdom.

Think about it. Had they just experienced the sufferings of Gethsemane without the glory of the Transfiguration, well, they would have been disillusioned and discouraged and felt hopeless. But on the other hand, had they only experienced the exaltation of the Transfiguration, without the humiliation of Gethsemane, they would have become, perhaps, unduly exalted, as Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians 12.

They would have had perhaps unrealistic expectations of what it meant to be a follower of Christ. We see here the same thing being borne out that there is first humiliation and then exaltation. There will be through the course of the Christian life seasons of glory and seasons of gore. The rich truth that we are reminded of is that Christ has been through both. And that He goes with us through both of those seasons.

I think it is significant that this experience took place on a high mountain. This wasn’t the first time the presence of God had been revealed on a mountain. You remember that it was on Mount Moriah that God provided for Abraham and Isaac a sacrifice, mindful of the sacrifice of Himself yet to come. And then it was on Mount Sinai that God revealed Himself to Moses and the Children of Israel. And if we had time, we could unpack numerous parallels between Mount Sinai and the Mount of Transfiguration. You can go and study those yourself.

Then we come to verse 2. It says, “He was transfigured before them.” The word, as you know, is from which we get our word “metamorphosis”—changed in form—changed. “He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” This whole experience was the confirmation of the confession that Peter had just made of who Christ was—the Christ, the son of the living God.”

This experience appears to have taken place at night. Jesus was transfigured from the inside out as the glory and the splendor of Christ shone out and was made visible. “His face shone like the sun.” I just picture the sun bursting out from behind dark clouds, and we see the glory and the splendor, the brilliance of the sun.

And then there was the matter of His clothing. When Moses' face shone with the glory of God, he covered it up with a veil. But Jesus' glory was so bright, that inner glory of His God-ness, His God-hood, His deity, was so bright that His clothes shone, too. His clothes, the Scripture says, became as white as light.

Luke’s account says that His clothing became dazzling and white. That word “glistering”—to emit flashes of light, flashing like lightning. Mark’s account says that His clothes were radiant. They were intensely white as no one on earth could bleach them. So you have this picture of blazing, blinding light from the face of Jesus and then the dazzling whiteness of His clothes.

Now keep in mind, this was not as if a spotlight was shined upon Jesus. This was the manifestation of the glory of God from within. Up this moment, Christ’s glory, while He was here on earth had been veiled by His humanity—His body of flesh. But now, the veil was lifted and His glory was made visible to human eyes. The glory of God revealed in the face of Christ, Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 4.

One commentator says, “Essentially, this was not a new miracle, but the temporary cessation of an ongoing miracle. The real miracle was that Jesus most of the time could keep from displaying this glory.”

Well, this was the one time during Jesus’ earthly life that the fullness of the God-head shone through the veil of His humanity. And the disciples were given a glimpse of the glory that Jesus had had for all of eternity past. We have some Old Testament references to that, some similar passages and descriptions. I won’t go there, but you know of the glory that He had in eternity past. They were also seeing the glory that would be His for all of eternity future.

In fact, in this moment, they were given a preview of His future return in power and in glory—a foretaste of the day when the full glory of Christ would be eternally unveiled. His Messianic kingdom would be established on this earth, not in humiliation but in exaltation—the Lion of the tribe of Judah on the throne forever and ever.

Some thirty years later, Peter was still taken by this event in such a way that he referred to it in his second epistle, and he said, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty. We were with Him on the holy mountain” (see 1:18). The apostle John said it this way in chapter 1 of the gospel of John, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory” (v. 14).

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking about what she calls the most significant event that happened between the birth and the death and the resurrection of Jesus. It’s part one of a three-day series called, "On Another Mountain." The series will give you new insight into the transfiguration as you’ve been hearing today. 

Do you know there are thousands of listeners who help bring you teaching like that? These listeners support Revive Our Hearts financially. When you give, you’re helping us speak to real women in real life situations. They need biblical guidance, and you can help Revive Our Hearts provide it. You’ll be helping women like Allison, who wrote to Nancy.

Nancy: Allison told us that she began listening to Revive Our Hearts before she got married. That was over four years ago, and she now has two young sons. She says,

Revive Our Hearts is a lifeline to me. On the days when I’ve wondered what I’ve done to myself by having these babies so early in life, Revive Our Hearts is there reminding me that my children are precious eternal souls.

Revive Our Hearts redirects me to a God-sized vision of marriage and motherhood.

[She closed by saying] Thank you, thank you, and thank you again. I so wish that I could do more to financially support this ministry. My husband is in school and finances are so tight that we’re not able to do much aside from giving to our local church and the missionaries that we’re already helping support.

Well, I’m so grateful that Revive Our Hearts has been there to speak truth into the life of this young woman as she’s been through some big life changes like marriage and becoming a mom. I love it that she and her husband are making it a priority to support their church and other missionaries that God puts on their hearts even during this time when finances are tight.

Now because of her season in life, Allison isn’t in a place to give to Revive Our Hearts right now, but maybe you are. When you support this ministry, you’re helping us encourage this young mom and thousands more like her. So would you ask the Lord what He would have you to give so that we can continue helping women discover, embrace, and delight in Christ and in His calling in their lives.

Leslie: When you make a donation of any size, we’ll say thanks by sending you the book and journal, The Incomparable Christ. The book inspired Nancy to teach through a series called "The Incomparable Christ," starting February 18. And the journal will provide follow up questions to help make your study of Jesus personal to your life. 

So here’s how this works. Each weekday in the weeks leading up to Easter, you can read a chapter from the book.  Then listen to that day’s radio series. Then answer questions in the journal.  

Through this process, you’ll focus on Jesus in a special way to prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday. It could be one of the most meaningful Easter seasons you’ve experienced. 

You can make your donation by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959. We’ll send one set per household for your donation. 

In this day of relativism, many have tried to reduce Christ to the status of just another great prophet. Tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts, Nancy will present the truth to counteract this idea.

Nancy: Jesus and Moses and Elijah are not equals . . . not even close. Jesus is the One and Only, the incomparable Christ.

Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture was taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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